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Technology Newsmaker Q&A Mark Singer, Excelfore

Wednesday, October 24, 2018 - 06:00
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At the beginning of 2018, Excelfore unveiled its eSync platform for over-the-air vehicle system updates and diagnostic data retrieval. Mark Singer, director of marketing at Excelfore, spoke to us about the platform and about the company’s plans for expanding the use of the system in the automotive industry for vehicle fleet management.

What was the genesis of eSync OTA? What challenges in the fleet space is this meant to address?
Excelfore long history of working in vehicle connectivity environments. As the vision for connected cars grew over past two decades, there is software in more devices in the car and it needs to be accessible for updating. Just in North America, something like $4 billion was spent by automakers in 2016 just for recalls related to software related issues.

But there is also an opportunity to improve the way cars work, and a company like Tesla gets that. If you bought a Tesla in 2016, today that car works better than it did when you bought it. It gets longer life on a battery charge, it’s faster off the line, and has more features.

That’s the primordial soup in which eSync was developed. The first round of OTA update technologies came from the Internet of Things space. Automotive is more rigorous. We want to reach every device in the car and provide a bi-directional data pipeline to send updates to devices and pull real-time data from them.

eSync is architected to give that level of capability that any number of devices in a car.

How does it work?
eSync has three components: a server, client and agent. The server lives in the cloud. That’s our part. The client typically would be one client per vehicle. Where does the software live? In any device in the car that the carmaker chooses that has memory to run it. It might be the head unit or the telematics unit. An agent is written to the end device. Tire pressure monitoring would have an agent. The ABS has an agent. It doesn’t matter to the server what the network is or how many different types of devices are there. That’s all managed in the client.

We would envision a vehicle that has an eSync platform built in. As a buyer of a car, you could now have a vehicle that can improve over time. 

For some very substantial portion of recalls, the recall process is really just a notification. There is new software and if it’s not safety critical, it may be just an option to install new software. You can have a notification come up on a phone or the dashboard of a car, and then choose to install it.

For drawing diagnostic data, eSync can find out what the problem is if there is a fault in the car. You can take the car when it’s convenient and get the problem fixed quickly. You don’t have that in the car today.

What are the chief security concerns with this type of solution, and how does eSync protect against them?
The server-client-agent architecture is a layered approach and is bi-directional. When you apply power to the vehicle network, every agent in the car will establish a secure link with the client. Whatever the agent’s resources are, they can se those to build a secure link to the client. The client has a highly secure link to the server. When there is an update, the server will encrypt or implement security that the end device can manage.

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